“Jitney” is a triumph for the great playwright August Wilson, director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the cast and Broadway!  It opened this past Thursday and features a brilliant ensemble cast.

From publicists Boneau/Bryan-Brown’s press release: The “Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway debut of August Wilson’sRubenSantiago ‘Jitney’ starring Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Brandon J. Dirden, André Holland, Carra Patterson, Michael Potts, Keith Randolph Smith, Ray Anthony Thomas, John Douglas Thompson… began previews Wednesday, December 28 and opened on Thursday, January 19 at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street)… directed by Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson.”  It’s the  “Only one of the ten plays in two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s masterful The American Century Cycle has never been seen on Broadway – until now.  Set in the 1970s, this richly textured piece follows a group of men trying to eke out a living by driving unlicensed cabs, or jitneys.  When the city threatens to board up the business and the boss’ son returns from prison, tempers flare, potent secrets are revealed and the fragile threads binding these people together may come undone at last.  MTC has a long history of co-producing works by this legendary playwright – King Hedley II, Seven Guitars and Piano Lesson – and is proud to produce this Broadway debut… Ruben Santiago-Hudson, is called “perhaps the foremost interpreter of the legendary August Wilson” by The New York Times.

Jitney CastPersonally I was ecstatic when I heard this was happening!  I love the theater, and the cast of ‘Jitney,’ under Santiago’s direction, does not disappoint.  Chisholm is a constant among thespians appearing in Wilson’s plays.  He’s magnificent every time.  Thompson is awesome and Dirden delivers.  Seeing Holland take the stage was extra special, having recently seen him, in the art that is “Moonlight.”  More on ‘Moonlight’…  https://museumofuncutfunk.com/2016/08/25/moonlighting-with-morgan-murphy-and-monae-misty/

JitneyThe full list of Wilson’s contributions in chronological order include: “Gem of the Ocean”; “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”; “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”; “The Piano Lesson”; “Seven Guitars”; “Fences”; “Two Trains Running”; “Jitney”; “King Headley II”: and “Radio Golf.”  The plays were not produced chronologically, but will make reference to any of the other pieces, in any given production.  The first to hit Broadway was ‘Ma Rainey.’  I knew nothing about Wilson then, I simply wanted to see it, because of the title.  ‘Rainey’ is the only story among the ‘Century Cycle,’ that doesn’t take place in Pittsburgh, but rather Chicago.  The only Broadway presentation among the series that I missed is ‘King Headley II.’

The left column is organized by when he wrote them.  The right column goes chronologically by the year in which the play is set:

August Wilson playslists

The Manhattan Theatre Club production, is proud to have Grammy Award winning artist John Legend and his Get Lifted partner Mike Jackson on board, as associate producers.  This is Legend’s first foray into Broadway.  They’re in company with producing team Eric Falkenstein, Ron Simons and Ken Wirth.

Adding to Wilson’s legacy, currently raking it in at the box office and just awarded four Oscar nominations, millions are raving about “Fences.”  The second play by August Wilson to hit Broadway in 1987, I remember when it took place, now his tenth of the “Pittsburgh Cycle” series is on Broadway.   I saw Denzel Washington make his Broadway debut in “Checkmates,” now he’s starring in and directed the film adaptation of ‘Fences,’ which I also saw him in on Broadway.  The ’87 cast featured James Earl Jones, Mary Alice, Frankie Faison and a young Courtney B. Vance.  ‘Fences’ the movie is up for Best Picture; Best Actor, Washington; Best Supporting Actress, Viola Davis; and Best Adapted Screenplay.  The aforementioned ‘Moonlight’ is also nominated at the Oscars this year.

Wilson stated: “I think my plays offer (white Americans) a different way to look at black Americans,” he told The Paris Review in an interview.  “For instance, in ‘Fences’ they see a garbageman, a person they don’t really look at, although they see a garbageman every day.  By looking at Troy’s life, white people find out that the content of this black garbageman’s life is affected by the same things – love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty.  Recognizing that these things are as much part of his life as theirs can affect how they think about and deal with black people in their lives.”  There’s still hope Mr. Wilson.

For the LOVE of Theatre


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